The 9/11 Attacks and New York City's Next Skyline

"I'll be thinking...about the relentless-probably unique-ability of New York City to bury its dead and move on..."


Here we are, 14 years past the horrible, awful, still-inconceivable 9/11 attacks. What is left to say about them? As Matt Welch's trenchantly points out, we should all learn to be more humble about policy certitude. And there's these thoughts about the attacks, the World Trade Center, and New York's next skyline, from a video that Meredith Bragg and I released in 2011:

On September 11, I'll be thinking less about the World Trade Center and more about my father and the relentless—probably unique—ability of New York City to bury its dead and move on without a backward glance.

My father was born in Manhattan in 1923, in a tenement building off Columbus Circle. A few years later, he moved to Brooklyn, a borough that was considered the country back then, a place that had more horses than cars. By the time he left there for good in 1966, it wasn't the country anymore, that's for sure.

He worked for Sea-Land, a shipping company that was one of the World Trade Center's original tenants, and one of my very earliest memories is of my older brother and me playing in the company's unfinished offices in one of the towers before the complex opened to the public in 1973.

Like many, probably most, New Yorkers, my father hated the Twin Towers at first, preferring the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, which had gone up during his childhood.

He'd seen King Kong when it came out in 1933, he explained, and he just couldn't see the big ape climbing the towers. By the late '70s—after Philippe Petit tightrope walked across them, George Willig scaled them, Owen Quinn parachuted from them, and King Kong himself had been shot off them in a 1976 remake—he'd come around.

On a trip to Manhattan around then, he asked me if I wanted to see where he'd been born. He hadn't been to the old neighborhood since before the war and was feeling nostalgic. We walked toward the Circle only to realize that not only the building he'd been born in was gone, but the entire street—paved over sometime in the '50s or '60s in the rush to build Lincoln Center, a place he'd never think of entering.

As the realization sunk in, he shrugged, turned to me, and said, "Well, do you wanna go see a movie instead?"

There's nothing that will lessen the horror of 9/11 or do justice to the murdered souls interred forever at Ground Zero. But in a strange and beautiful and terrible way, New York—and America—will honor them most by pausing only briefly to pay our respects.

Written by Nick Gillespie and produced by Meredith Bragg. 

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com, and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America.

Meredith Bragg is a producer for Reason.tv and a 2009 finalist for a digital National Magazine Award for best video.

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  1. the relentless ? probably unique ? ability of New York City to bury its dead and move on without a backward glance

    I think the new WTC is actually a counter-example of this idea. Half the space is memorial, after all. And “relentless” sort of implies a quick rebound – not sitting here fourteen years later and still waiting for the damn thing to be finished.


    2. Quick kids, wave your tiny American flags vigorously so no one thinks you hate America like that traitor Rhywun!

    3. If NYC had the relentless ability to bury its dead and move on without a backward glance ? it very obviously doesn’t, as every fucking invocation of 9/11 demonstrates ? it wouldn’t be unique. It would be on par with your average large American city.

      1. To be fair (I know, right?), 9/11 is an outlier in recent American history. But I do agree that the “ability to bury its dead and move on without a backward glance” is a very American trait and common almost everywhere here. It *may* be somewhat magnified in NYC due to its reputation as a center of commerce and finance but that has declined significantly since the rise of the preservation movement.

  2. Bottom line; deleting those ugly fucking towers was an aesthetic improvement.
    “You’re a monster, Zorg.”
    “I know.”

    1. “You’re the worst character ever, Towelie.”

      “I know.”

    2. I prefer the twin towers to what they erected to replace them.

  3. 9/11 Changed everything.

    1. 9/11 changed everything for the worse.

    2. It didn’t change shit.

  4. Hey, where are our new truther friends?

    1. I had to larf at mtrueman showing the Truther Flag.

      1. It’s always the ones you most expect.

        1. I knew he was a dunce… but a dunce and a Truther – that made me laugh. Just too much fun.

      2. I must’ve missed that one.

        Was the collapse of Building 7 caused by an exploited proletariat casting his sabot into the gears of the bourgeois industrial machinery that cranks out useless garbage that degrades humanity by increasing its material standard of living and comfort? Mildly curious minds are vaguely interested.

    2. Alex Jones has a pool party?


      1. I, for one, welcome our new Lizard People-Illuminati-Jew overlords! Long may they lay their chemtrails!

        1. *chugs a forty – throws bottle against building*

  5. What’s with all the 9/11 nostalgia today…?

    1. They ran out of Trump material for the moment.

      1. Trump is somehow involved. With the reverse vampires.

    2. Thank God that Nintendo decided to release Super Mario Maker today, finally ending our 14 year long national nightmare!

    1. Rainbow? I’d rather have 3000 people not dead anymore.

      1. Death for some, tiny American rainbows for others!

        1. The lord works in mysterious ways.

    2. Based on the signs I have witnessed over the years, I have ascertained that God hates scaffolding and large cranes as well as the people who stand atop or under them.

      Oh, and people who live atop fault lines and in the middle of continents. And on eastern coasts.

      1. Don’t forget trailer parks and floodplains!

      2. Based on the signs I have witnessed over the years, I have ascertained that God hates scaffolding and large cranes as well as the people who stand atop or under them.

        I think that the whole Tower of Babel story is actually about God’s hatred of tall construction. Compare the timeline of Gothic architecture to the emergence of the Black Death ? indeed, given the influences from Islamic architecture in skyward vaulting, look at how the earlier scaffolded architecture there matches with pandemics that would reach Europe when they also literally got uppity…

        The ‘Curse of William Penn’ in Philadelphia is starting to sound more and more realistic.

  6. I prefer the twin towers to what they erected to replace them.

    The World’s Largest Urinal?
    Ehh, it’s a tossup.

  7. Yeah, I’m in the “can we just move on?” camp. Never understand wallowing in these shitty events. They’re not to be celebrated, certainly.

    How many people stop to recall when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

    MoveOn.org, man.

  8. . They don’t build towers like the Chrysler building, or the Empire State Building because with a debauched dollar and reduced purchasing power, the cost would be astronomical. The EPSB was somewhere around 38 lbs per cubic foot, while the WTC was 10.

    3×8 beams? Try ordering them today. 2 x 4’s are not true to size either. 4 courses of brick and a two foot thick foundation? Unheard of in new homes.

    Take any city two or three story (Chicago and so on) and try to duplicate that construction. You will find such a cost to be far out of reach, but was built and afforded back then on a single salary.

    I’m sure someone would enjoy a house constructed to the same standards as the 20’s, with even more amenities such as steel beams instead of wood, and an open floor plan along with better windows and insulation. With such currency debauchery, these are out of reach to a single income earner, and even most families that have two incomes.

    1. Instead of spending $3.9B over seven years for something like the Freedom Tower, why not do what The Donald did with Trump Tower ?hire a secret boatload of illegal Polish workers to do all the labor and build the skyscraper in two years for under $325M? Even with the new WTC being twice the size, The Powers That Cheat could have cut corners far more effectively.

      (I find His Yugeness reprehensible, but the construction of Trump Tower, compare to pretty much every other building of that scale, does give me a bit of pause on how realistic his Wall idea actually is…)

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